…No. My first thought when I heard this being said by Richard Carrier a couple of years ago was that it didn’t seem to fit the common usage of the word that I was familiar with (i.e. the colloquial usage of the word “delusional” didn’t seem to fit the vast majority of religious people).
Now Wikipedia is certainly not the source of all things true, but it’s a good start and seems to confirm my thoughts on this. Here is what I get when looking up “delusional” on wikipedia:
A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.
The second sentence says it is distinct from a belief based on dogma, and this is how I have always kind of thought of the word delusional. I don’t think this is about giving religious people a “break” or being soft in describing them. I actually think the term is simply not appropriate because for me it conjures up thoughts of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. Now I don’t want to make this about “my definition is better than yours, nah nah na nah nah”, so I can give some leeway as I usually do when it comes to semantics, but it seems reasonable to suggest that at best it is unclear that the term is appropriate.
What seems even stranger is that the people that want to use the word to describe believers are the very people that want to convince believers that atheism is a better worldview (which is not the point of my blog by the way – and anyone who has read it thoroughly I believe would agree). I am sure there have been people who have heard this and then gone “oh yeah, you know what, I am delusional – thanks for clearing that up”. But I’m wondering if insulting people by calling them something that usually conjures up “looney bin” is the right approach for atheists who desire to persuade.